January 19, 2010 | General

Editorial: New Decade, New Dialogue

BioCycle January 2010, Vol. 51, No. 1, p. 4
Nora Goldstein

Over the past few weeks, there has been a flurry of emails and phone calls about the landfill industry’s push to repeal state bans on disposal of yard trimmings. States in the crosshairs include Missouri, Michigan, Georgia and Florida. Legislation is being introduced (in some states for multiple years in a row) to enact the repeals. The landfill industry’s logic is that throwing away yard trimmings and other organic wastes is the ticket to simultaneously prevent global warming and generate green energy.
Are they serious? As Sally Brown pointed out so succinctly in her December 2009 Climate Change Connections column, “Landfill Gas Math,” claims of green energy from landfilling yard trimmings are beyond exaggerated. And as for a better way to control greenhouse gas emissions, there appears to be a lot of holes in those claims as well. What may be the actual driving force now is a “garbage grab,” where landfill owners are trying to make up for lost revenue caused by the economic downturn (i.e., less waste generated).
No matter the true explanation, the bottom line is that these calls for repeals are a total waste of time, money and emotional energy. And with the urgency of our environmental challenges, we need to move on and capitalize on solutions that actually do reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate truly green energy. And build healthy soils and healthy communities. Let’s put our time, money and energy into projects that create jobs and grow local economies. No jobs are created by throwing high-value organic waste streams into landfills. Many jobs are created by capturing, processing and utilizing those materials.
So here is the real deal. It is a new decade, and time for a new dialogue. It is not pie in the sky to wish that landfill companies would work more collaboratively with organics recyclers to build on each other’s strengths. There are many very profitable solid waste companies with landfills in their portfolios that are actively involved in organics recycling.
What do they know that their industry colleagues don’t?
We do not have the luxury of time to dicker with landfill ban repeal legislation. We do have time to leave our “baggage” at the door and engage in productive dialogue that yields sustainable solutions. It is worth repeating from previous editorials that nothing has to be invented or patented for this organics recycling dialogue to move forward. The tools we need are available, the knowledge base is fertile and in many places the regulatory and financial communities are ready and willing to help push projects along.
BioCycle’s upcoming 25th Annual West Coast Conference – April 12-15, 2010 in San Diego, California – is a great place to kick off this new dialogue in the new decade. You can view the complete agenda at

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